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men servants, and women servants, and gave unto them Abraham.” Did he make a present to Abraham of free hired servants? Will
this ? No: they were slaves; and as slaves they were transferred by free gift, from one master to another, just as slaves are now given away in the southern States. Abimelech gave, and Abraham received them. If Abraham had been an abolitionist in sentiment, would he have received such a present? Would he not have rebuked Abimelech for offering it to him?
A third passage, to the same effect, is found in the 24th chapter of Genesis, and at the 35th verse. Abraham's pious,
, confidential servant was trusted to go and bring a wife for his son Isaac, and in executing his commission, he said to Rebekah's relatives, “and the Lord hath blessed my master greatly; and he is become great: and he hath given him flocks and herds, and silver and gold, and men servants and maid servants, and camels and asses.” (The brother is much scandalized at the manner in which slave-holders are wont to speak of their slaves, in the same breath with their horses and mules: here they are numbered in the same catalogue with camels and asses: but this I notice in passing.) Abraham's servant says,
6 THE LORD hath given my master men servants and maid servants." God
them to him as his Now, either this pious man blasphemed God, or slave-holding is no such sin as the brother maintains it to be. That these servants of Abraham were slaves, is evident, not only from the fact, that some of them were bought with money, that they were received as a present, and that they are enumerated as part of his possessions which the Lord has given him, but from the words employed to designate them. Shifha, the word translated “maid servant,” as we have already seen, means a female slave. And the word eved, translated man servant, means literally and properly a male slave. This is the word always used by the Hebrews, when they wished to speak definitely of a male slave. Gessenius, one of the most celebrated lexicographers, defines it thus: “Servus quo apud Hebræos mancipium esse
solebat." A servant, one who used to be among the Hebrews a slave. Servus and mancipium were the two Latin words commonly used to signify a slave. Every Hebrew scholar will admit, that the Hebrew word for a male slave, is eved. If the gentleman should deny it, will he be kind enough to tell us, what word the Hebrews used, when they wished to speak of slaves ? And since they were surrounded by slaves and slave-holders, it will not be denied, that they had occasion to speak of them.
But in Leviticus, 25th chapter, and 39th and following verses, we have not only the word which definitely means slave; but we have the thing itself so completely described, that there can be no room either for argument or for evasion.
" And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee, be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bond servant. But as a hired servant, and as a sojourner,
he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of Jubilee: and then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return. For they are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they shall not be sold as bondmen. Thou shalt not rule over him with rigor; but shalt fear thy God.
“Both thy bondmen and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you: of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with
which they begat in your land; and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your
children after you, to inherit them for a possession: they shall be your bondmen FOREVER: but over your brethren the children of Israel ye shall not rule one over another with rigor.”
I venture to say, there is not language more clearly and unequivocally describing slaves in any slave code on earth, than is found in this chapter. Indeed I know not what
phraseology more unequivocal could be employed. Let us carefully examine it
There were among the Hebrews, several classes of servants distinct from each other.
1. There was the hired servant, who was called sakir. He was a free man, and his wages were to be paid promptly. “ The wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning." Levit. xix: 13.
2. The Jew who had become poor and sold himself for six years, and who was to be treated, not as a slave, but as a hired servant. Levit. xxv: 40. This class is spoken of also in Exod. xxi: 2, as follows : “If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.
If her master have given him a wife, and she have borne him sons or daughters: the wife and her children shall be his master's, and he shall go out by himself.” Here, by the way, we find the legal principle so abused by the gentleman, “partus sequiter ventrem."—the state of the offspring is governed by the state of the mother.
A servant of this class, though originally bought only for six years, might voluntarily become a bondservant during life. The law is as follows:
“ And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children ; I will not go out free. Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door-post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.” Exod. xxi: 5, 6.
The same law is repeated, more fully, in Deut. xv: 12. “ And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years : then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy wine-press: of
that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. And thou shalt remember that thou was a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to-day. And it shall be, if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee; because he loveth thee and thine house, because he is well with thee : then thou shalt take an awl, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant forever. And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise."
3. The Gibeonites, who by treachery had obtained an oath from the children of Israel to spare their lives, were, for their deceit, made “ hewers of wood and drawers of water to the congregation, and for the altar of the Lord, even unto this day, in the place which he should choose.” I do not say, they were slaves in the same sense with others; but they were condemned to involuntary servitude. The principle of bond-service was there.
4. There was still a fourth class of servants, who were bought of the heathen. These were all slaves during life. “Both thy bondmen and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you: of them shall buy bondmen and bondmaids, &c."
It is evident, that these were slaves, from several considerations :
1. They were bought with money, which certainly was not the case with hired servants. My brother will here tell you, that the Hebrews were accustomed, sometimes, to buy their wives. I do not deny that they sometimes did So,
but when a man bought a woman as a wife, she was his wife; and when a man bought persons, male or female, for servants, or bondmen, they were his bondmen or slaves. The bondmen here spoken of, were bought for servants.
2. The bondmen and bondmaids here spoken of, are not only distinguished from, but put in contrast with hired servants ; “ And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee, thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bond servant, but as an hired servo
rvant, and as a sojourner shall he be with thee." The words used to designate these two classes of servants, are different. The hired servant is called sakir; and the bond servant, or slave, is called eved.
3. The contrast in which the hired servant is here placed with reference to the bondservant, as well as the words by which the two are respectively designated, proves beyond question, that the latter was a slave. For if both were hired servants, how could Moses command that the Jewish servant should be treated, not as a bond servant, but as a hired servant? Will the gentleman please to explain?
The same contrast is found in Exod. xii. 44, 45, where Moses gives directions concerning those who might or might not partake of the Passover.
“But every man servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof." The servant bought with money, belonged to the family, and might, therefore, partake of the Passover ; but the hired servant, temporarily in the family, could not.
4. The servants thus bought, are declared to be the posSESSION of their masters, and the INHERITANCE of their children. The words here translated possession and inheritance, are constantly used with reference to landed estate, or any other property. No stronger expression can be found in the Hebrew language, to express the claim of the master to the services of those bought with his money.
5. It is further evident that these servants were slaves, because they might be compelled to obey their masters, not by law, as a debtor might be compelled to pay his debts, but by chastisement; and that might be very severe without exposing the master to the penalty of the civil law. The law on this subject is in Exod. xxi: 20. “ And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand: he shall be surely punished: notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two he shall not be punished; for he is his money."